Golf: Park's 62 puts cup chase in the shade

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The Independent Online
NICK FALDO has always been more of a par machine than a man for the birdies. But the flat and featureless Munchen Nord-Eichenreid course, is golf's equivalent of limbo-dancing: how low can you go? Par golf will not cut it, nor make the cut. "Maybe that's good to make you focus on making birdies," Faldo said.

In the first round of the BMW International, Faldo made five in his 67, equalling his lowest score of the year, and none of the bogeys he has been spewing out regularly for a couple of years.

It was a good effort from a man desperately trying to make a last, and lasting, impression before Europe's Ryder Cup captain, Mark James, selects his wild cards on Sunday. But it could not compare with the round produced by a man 17 years Faldo's junior. David Park birdied 11 holes in the 10- under-par 62, equalling the course record, that gave him a four-stroke lead over Padraig Harrington, Domingo Hospital and Dennis Edlund. "I witnessed one of the great rounds today," Bernhard Langer said of Park's performance.

Park, the 25-year-old Welshman who was a runner-up and a winner in his first two events on the European Tour in June, is not quite in the Sergio Garcia class. But he is another of the young, talented, powerful and fearless golfers the game is currently throwing up. Against this new wave, the Faldo of recent times has looked tired and outdated.

His latest overhaul, with the coach Mitchell Spearman and the sports psychologist Kjell Enhager, might have done the trick but the impression is that whatever Faldo does this week it would not be enough. "There is a limit to how far I'll go down the list," James said. "I said before it's unlikely I would go outside the top 20, but I didn't discount it." The win Faldo craves would put him only 22nd in the qualifying rankings.

James added: "I have never questioned Nick's hunger, his commitment or his ability to play under pressure or how much he wants to play in the Ryder Cup. I don't think Nick is alone in that."

Of course, all along James has been careful to obfuscate his comments as much as possible. Yesterday he denied the number of rookies in the team - there could be five or six - would rule out picking another rookie who just missed out on qualifying. "I am not worried about the number of rookies," he said. "I purely judge by how I think they will perform in the Ryder Cup and under that pressure. That's my job."

In the battle for the 10th place, Robert Karlsson, the current resident, scored a 70, as did the next man down, Andrew Coltart - reunited with his clubs after they failed to show up on the same flight as the Scot on Wednesday. Bernhard Langer scored a 69, James a 70 but Harrington, the 27-year-old from Dublin, had the best day.

Harrington, second last week in Ireland, has found it hard to ignore the cup speculation. "You can't help overhearing it," he said. "It's all everyone is talking about. Even those players who can't make it."

Despite James's comments, Harrington appeared baffled that he might be in the wild card running if he does not get the top-three finish he needs to qualify. The former Walker Cup player admitted: "I'm not expecting a wild card. I don't want to destroy my own chances but I'm sure Mark will look to pick someone with experience. I'm not trying to impress him. If I have a good week I'll be in the team anyway."

One rumour, that Seve Ballesteros was on standby were James to qualify and decide to play, can be dismissed. "I have not been asked," Ballesteros said. Were he to qualify, Colin Montgomerie would want James to play. "It's his duty," Montgomerie said. "Otherwise we would not have our strongest team."